Volunteers, from front, Bill Murphy, Nate Vacura and Mark Simril, work to widen the Ridge Trail on Saturday to make it accessible to hand cyclists who want to ride the connecting Rotary Trail.

Photo by Matt Stensland

Volunteers, from front, Bill Murphy, Nate Vacura and Mark Simril, work to widen the Ridge Trail on Saturday to make it accessible to hand cyclists who want to ride the connecting Rotary Trail.

Trail widening will make Rotary Trail accessible to adaptive cyclists

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Craig Kennedy rides a hand cycle during an adaptive cycling camp he helped put on in July 2010 at Steamboat Ski Area.

Work is nearly completed to make a popular mountain bike trail on the backside of Emerald Mountain accessible to hand cyclists.

Cyclists began riding the Rotary Trail in 2011. It offered many thrills for the beginner or out-of-shape cyclist not interested in grinding climbing efforts or technical downhills. It filled a niche in Steamboat as a true all-abilities ride, but trail designer Aryeh Copa noted there was one flaw. While the trail was built wide using machines, the Ridge Trail used to access Rotary Trail from Routt County Road 45 on the backside of Emerald Mountain was a typical single-track width. This meant the all-abilities Rotary Trail was inaccessible to adaptive cyclists, who pedal their 28-inch wide bikes using their hands.

“They can’t get there without riding this,” Copa said at the Ridge Trail on Saturday.

This summer, an effort is underway to widen the half-mile section of Ridge Trail leading to the Rotary Trail. Copa, a Routt County Riders board member, on Saturday led a crew of seven people as they swung axes and raked away the vegetation for four hours to widen the trail to at least 3 feet. Routt County Riders pays the crew leader $100 to organize work days, and the volunteers are working for donated food and all the New Belgium beer they can drink.

“A bunch of good workers out here,” Copa said. “Everyone’s sweating.”

A few more hours of work, and Rotary Trail finally should be accessible to adaptive cyclists, which should open up opportunities.

“Ideally, they can have adaptive camps out here and have nice flowy trails they can ride,” Copa said.

That vision is shared by Steamboat resident Craig Kennedy, an adaptive cyclist himself who is the program director for Steamboat Adaptive Recreational Sports, or STARS.

“I want to get out there as soon as they’re done,” Kennedy said.

While three-wheeled hand cycles are designed and geared to handle challenging trails, Kennedy said the trails need to be wider than normal. On local trails, Kennedy said hand cyclists are somewhat limited, though new trails being built at Steamboat Ski Area are hand cycle friendly.

“All the new trails are wide enough, which is great,” Kennedy said. “You just have to have the nerve to go ride them.”

Off-road hand cycling is a new sport that has grown in the past five years, and making trails accessible opens up opportunities for Steamboat and its Bike Town USA initiative, Kennedy said.

“As more people get introduced to the sport, they’re going to be looking for places to go,” Kennedy said. “This is just one step in the right direction to bring more riders here.”

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247 or email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com

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